Nonfarm U.S. payroll employment rose by 244,000 in April but there remain 13.7 million unemployed. The unemployment rate rose from 8.8% to 9.0%, because the labor force increased. Employment now stands 1.4 million jobs higher than this time last year, but on a base of almost 140 million employees, that’s just one percent – over a whole year. Economist consensus is for continued slow progress in 2011 and 2012 so serious unemployment will bother us for a few years, and some will feel it more than others.
Men and women in the 20-24 years old group have unemployment rates of 16.1% and 13.7%. Joblessness is a ugly burden for these people with adult responsibilities, many of whom are recent college graduates carrying hefty loans and career hopes that may feel crushed. They will slowly find a place in the recovering economy.
For those who are married with their spouse present, unemployment is comparatively low: 6% for married males and 5.4% for married female compared with 9.4% for males and 8.4% for females in the labor force at large. This “spouse present” factor shows clearly in the wretched 11.7% unemployment rate for females who maintain a family. Steady employment is unlikely to be the main challenge these women face, but it makes life difficult for them and their children.
Unemployment stratified by education tells a disturbing story. For adults 25 years and older lacking a high school diploma, unemployment is 14.6% compared with 4.5% for the same age group holding a bachelors or higher. Educational under-attainment can grind away for an entire lifetime at a person’s job security and income. And parental under-attainment can reach further: a parent’s income, education, attitudes, conversations, and emphasis on learning can influence mightily a young child’s learning abilities. Addressing this high school drop-out syndrome has been the quest of countless well-meaning “programs” and billions in spending. But clearly, the problem remains and its strong ripple effects will harm all of us.
On a positive note, there were only 989,000 discouraged workers in April, a decline of 208,000 from a year earlier, yet up from 320,000 in October 2007. It is a reflection of the American labor force’s grit that less than 1% think looking for a job is not worth it.
Alan Daley is a retired businessman living in Florida. He follows public policy from the consumer’s perspective